Imagine a Day Without Water

Sometimes, it is easy to take clean water from homes and businesses for granted. However, could you imagine a day without water? Without safe, reliable water and wastewater services?

What does a day without water actually mean? A day without water means no water comes out of your tap to brush your teeth. There is no water to do laundry or make coffee. When you flush the toilet, nothing happens. Firefighters have no water to put out fires, hospitals would close, and farmers couldn’t water their crops. A single nationwide day without water would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk and nearly 2 million jobs in jeopardy. A day without water would be nothing short of a national crisis.

The US Water Alliance is holding its fourth annual Imagine A Day Without Water day to raise awareness and educate America about the value of water. This day is a national education campaign with the goal to engage stakeholders, organization, businesses, public officials, and the general public about how water is essential, invaluable, and needs investment. It will take place October 10, 2018, and includes events, resolutions, social media engagement and more across the country. Last year, over 750 organizations came together to take part in this very important day. This year, we encourage everyone who cares about water to join this national day of action to secure a sustainable future. Participating groups can host events, promote social media campaigns, pass a resolution with your mayor or city council, or do whatever you think best educates and engages the public and stakeholders about how water is essential, invaluable, and worthy of investment. This important day also provides teachers and educators the opportunity to reinforce the importance of water with their students through various activities, conversations, field trips, and events.

This crisis may seem unthinkable to most of us, however, some communities in America know how impossible it is to go a day without water. From man-made tragedies in Flint, Michigan, to water scarcity issues in Central California, to water pollution contamination from hurricane Florence right here in North Carolina. There are millions of Americans living in communities that do not have the infrastructure to provide safe water service, relying on bottled water and septic systems every day. The problems that face our drinking water and wastewater systems are due to many variables. The infrastructure is aging and in need of investment, having gone underfunded for decades. Drought, flooding, and climate change stress water and wastewater systems. Although these regional challenges will require locally-driven solutions, reinvestment in our water must be a national priority.

While we aren’t celebrating a day without water, we are definitely observing this day as an appreciation for the natural water resources available to us in our country! Water scarcity is a public health issue as well as an economic issue. A day without water is undoubtedly a crisis. No community can thrive without water, and every American deserves a safe, reliable, accessible water supply. Let’s demand better, and make sure no American has to “Imagine a Day Without Water” again. As a partner in the Imagine a Day Without Water movement, please check out this video to learn more about how Americans can come together to save our most precious resource.

 

 

Coal Ash and The Aftermath of Florence

As rain from Florence surged through North Carolina in early September, the region’s overflowing rivers have swept away part of a retaining wall holding back a pond of coal ash which raises concerns about water pollution entering the Cape Fear River and beyond. The gray ash byproduct left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury.

Coal ash is the dusty residue that remains after power plants burn coal to generate electricity. It is one of the largest forms of industrial waste, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. The heavy metals that it contains are linked to respiratory illnesses and cancer. It can also cause environmental damage such as deformities and reproductive harm in fish and wildlife. Many of these pollutants, once in the environment, remain there for years.

Here is where the dangers exist across the hardest hit regions:

coal_ash-600

The collapse of a Duke Energy owned coal ash landfill at the L.V. Sutton Power Station near Wilmington, N.C. has led to an unknown amount of potentially contaminated storm water flowing into nearby Sutton lake which drains into the Cape Fear River. At a different power plant near Goldsboro, three old coal ash dumps were flooded, but not breached.

Polluted floodwaters breached a dam on Friday, September 21st that contains a man-made lake connected to a Duke Energy power plant, causing coal ash to flow into the nearby Cape Fear River. The floodwaters flowed from Cape Fear River into the northern side of Sutton Lake, an 1,100 acre reservoir built in 1972. That water caused breaches in the dam on the south end of the lake, which flowed back into the river. The 200 mile Cape Fear River eventually flows into the Atlantic at Wilmington, North Carolina.

Duke has confirmed that another type of coal combustion byproduct, cenospheres, composed mostly of alumni and silica, has flowed from a local ash basin into Sutton Lake and the Cape Fear River. It is not known what amounts or types of cenospheres have entered the river, and therefore it is difficult to determine the potential health risks. It is important to keep in mind that most coal ash sites in North Carolina are rated by the EPA as highly hazardous. Unfortunately, there are additional concerns regarding these coal ash sites. Unlined impoundments in coal ash sites may not stop toxic pollutants from seeping into nearby groundwater, rivers and lakes, and impoundments that are in poor condition are more likely to leak and contaminate groundwater, surface water or surrounding property.

Energy companies maintain that the way they store coal ash, in earthen pits mixed with water, is safe. However, following Florence, Duke Energy reported multiple breaches at the lake at its Sutton power plant, in Wilmington, N.C., that caused coal ash to flow out to the nearby Cape Fear River. Duke’s handling of coal ash waste has been under scrutiny since a drainage pipe collapsed under a waste pit at an old plant in Eden in 2014, triggering a massive spill that spread 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge.

Environmental groups have been warning for decades that Duke’s coal ash ponds were vulnerable to severe storms and pose a threat to drinking water supplies and public safety. Disposing of coal ash close to waterways is hazardous, and Duke Energy compounds the problem by leaving most of its ash in primitive unlined pits filled with water. Future precautions need to be made in order to prevent water contamination during future hurricane seasons.

 

Hurricane Florence and the Hazards of Stormwater Runoff

The Atlantic Hurricane season is now upon us for 2018. The season began on June 1st and runs through to the end of November. Although it is possible for storms to form outside of this time frame, we can expect the bulk of the weather to fall in this period. As Hurricane Florence nears the Carolina coast, many local stores are experiencing empty gasoline pumps and barren store shelves. Hurricane Florence will generate 140 mph (225 kph) winds and drenching rain that could last for days. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency and prompted those who live on the coast to evacuate inland. While many think a hurricane only harms coastal communities, flash flooding, high winds, tornadoes, landslides, and mud slides can cause incredible damage to inland communities both during and long after a major storm event like Florence.

It is important to understand that even after a hurricane passes through your neighborhood, you could still be at risk. The precipitation that does not soak into the ground where it falls is referred to as “stormwater runoff“, which can continue to accumulate and cause flooding issues for several days after the rain stops. This runoff is incredibly good at picking up whatever it comes into contact with as it travels downward to the lowest elevation, so it can sometimes also contain hazardous substances such as debris, chemicals, oils and grease, sediment, bacteria, and other pollutants.

Contamination of local waterways is a major threat that can arise from heavy rainfall. Runoff may pollute rivers, lakes, aquifers, and other water bodies nearby. This can add chemicals and hazardous substances to water sources that people drink and swim in. Runoff may be harmful for humans or livestock which may attempt to feed off of plants or water sources that have been affected by runoff. When water runs off roofs, yards, streets, and parking lots into storm sewers or directly into waterways, it carries with it sediments that clog streams and reduce oxygen in the water, as well as chemicals that can be fatal to aquatic ecosystems and lead to undrinkable water supplies for humans.

What To Do During Hurricane Florence

To avoid contributing to runoff pollution during Hurricane Florence, residents can take certain precautions such as cleaning up any debris or waste in yards and streets, and refraining from fertilizing and watering yards, or using toxic products directly before the hurricane. Other steps you can take include reducing the amount of impervious surfaces on your property, lining impervious surfaces with gravel trenches, using the water that drains off your roof, replacing lawn areas with native plants, adding organic matter to your soil, planting trees, creating a rain garden, installing berms and vegetated swales, as well as reducing the slope of your yard. It is also important to ensure pet waste is disposed of properly, as pet waste left on the ground can be washed into surface waters, causing significant bacterial contamination and boosting the nutrients to unsafe levels. It is also important to secure septic systems to ensure that waste does not seep into runoff.

Rain is never going away, and neither is human infrastructure. However, growing technologies like permeable pavement, rain garden construction in urban centers, and public education can go a long way in protecting the health of the lakes, rivers, and oceans that so many people and animals call home. By working together to preserve plant life that filters storm water and taking steps in our everyday lives to slow runoff and instead use it for something like a rain garden, we can begin to tackle the problem of stormwater pollution together.

City of Raleigh Hosting Hurricane Season Flooding Series August 28 and 29

The City of Raleigh sees the most flooding impacts from hurricanes in September and October. To help you prepare, the City is holding public meetings that cover:

  • Why flooding happens;
  • What to expect in different areas of the city;
  • What the City does to reduce impacts from flooding; and,
  • Available community resources.

WRAL meteorologist Greg Fishel will be there to lend his expertise as well!

Click on the links below to find out more information about the series – no reservations are required.

Flooding Series: What you Need to Know During Hurricane Season
August 28 at 6 p.m.
Walnut Creek Wetland Center, 950 Peterson St.

Flooding Series: What you Need to Know During Hurricane Season
August 29 at 6 p.m.
Lake Lynn Community Center, 7921 Ray Road

Spotlight on Cary – Stormwater Program of the Month!

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month we’re focusing on the Town of Cary as they strive to continue increasing public engagement and awareness of stormwater in their everyday lives!

In the Town of Cary’s continuing engagement with downtown stormwater stakeholders, staff gave a guided tour to about 10 citizens, including developers and downtown homeowners, to see real-life examples of stormwater management in practice and public-private opportunities. NC State University professor Dr. Bill Hunt was in attendance and provided valuable insights. In addition to the walking tour, attendees were able to see the new truck that is cleaning out stormwater drains in a Town of Cary pilot area as part of their proactive approach to maintenance.

DT Stormwater Tour 1

The tour infused plenty of Town technology by utilizing a stormwater storymap via iPad devices in order to supplement the talking points at each spot along the tour. The tour group was encouraged to share the walking tour and storymap with their social circles and continue using the features through the publicly accessible website. Since the tour, the Town of Cary has seen traffic to the storymap website double. Be sure to check out this cool technology and see photos of stormwater education in action!

Spotlight on Hillsborough – Stormwater Program of the Month!

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month we’re focusing on Hillsborough as they work to grow their stormwater education and outreach programs and maximize their impact with the community!

Stormwater Almanac

The Hillsborough Stormwater and Environmental Services division publishes a Stormwater Almanac quarterly, featuring educational articles and updates on Town stormwater projects. The most recent issue highlighted the Town’s stormwater retrofit that directed additional stormwater runoff to a bioretention cell in Cates Creek park.

CatesCreekParkRetrofit_NewInlet

Volunteers Help Maintain Wetland

Triangle Fly Fishers, a local fly fishing and conservation group recently completed maintenance at the Town of Hillsborough’s stormwater wetland located at Gold Park. Volunteers removed cattails, unwanted woody vegetation, as well as trash and debris. As part of the effort, Stormwater and Environmental Services Manager, Terry Hackett explained how the wetland functions to remove stormwater pollution which benefits the nearby Eno River.

StormwaterWetlandVolunteerMaintenance

Citizens Academy

Stormwater and Environmental Services staff presented to the Town of Hillsborough’s 4th Citizens Academy. The Citizens Academy is a 7-week long program aimed at helping citizens increase their knowledge of town government, as well as their interest and ability in influencing and participating in town decisions.  Staff provided an overview of the town’s stormwater program, including the town’s stormwater management utility and associated fee. Participants then had the opportunity to ask questions to gain more insight about the town’s efforts to reduce stormwater runoff pollution.

Earth Evening 2018

Every year on the Friday night of Earth Week, the division speaks with the public and leads hands-on activities for all ages during the annual Earth Evening event at the Market Pavilion in River Park, downtown Hillsborough. This event is organized by Orange County Department of Environment, Agriculture, Parks and Recreation. The division also leads similar activities at local schools throughout the year.

TES_Science_Night_2018

SCM Recognition Program

The division is kicking off a recognition program for owners of Stormwater Control Measures (SCMs) this month. The town requires SCM owners to maintain their SCMs and submit annual inspection reports. The program will recognize those property owners who have exceptional compliance records and consistently maintain SCMs, following all applicable maintenance requirements. While recognizing deserving property owners, we also hope to achieve greater public awareness of our SCM inspection program.

For more information about the great work Hillsborough is doing, feel free to reach out to the Town’s Stormwater Coordinator Heather Fisher at 919-296-9622!

City of Raleigh 2018 Capture it! Stormwater Arts Contest Winners Announced

Congratulations to the City of Raleigh’s 2018 Capture it! Stormwater Arts Contest winners! Winners for the three categories below were announced at the 11th Annual Environmental Awards in March:

Video Winner – “Stormwater Video” by Ryann Bauguess, Rachel Young, and Kira Badrova

 

Check out the winning video below!

Storm Drain Stencil Design Winner  “All Drains to the Neuse” by Genna Stott

Storm Drain Stencil Winner 2018

Rain Barrel Artwork Design Winner – “Which Side are you on?” by Izabel de Angelo, Davis Lingle, Jonathan Clymer, and Taylor Gantt.

Rain Barrel Winner 2018

Spotlight on Durham: Stormwater Program of the Month!

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month we’re focusing on Durham and their longstanding Creek Week efforts, as well as their pledge to keep more plastic waste out of our waters!

There is a lot going on in March for both the City and County of Durham, as well as their many environmental partners in the community! Durham’s Creek Week has been an established event for the last decade, and each year it grows and evolves even more. In conjunction with this year’s Creek Week, there are lots of other great events, initiatives, and opportunities to get involved with cleaning up your environment and keeping our water safe. For a list of all Creek Week events, check out this website: Durham Creek Week Events Page.  Whether you’re interested in a litter cleanup event, planting a tree, or even a canoe paddle, you’ll definitely find something fun to do!

Skip the Straw!

More than 500,000,000 straws are used once and tossed every day in this country! Mayor Steve Schewel has proclaimed March “No Straws Month” in Durham: “Single use plastics that find their way onto our streets get washed through storm drains into local creeks and all the way to the ocean,” says Mayor Schewel. “Plastic litter is a roadside eyesore, and it also can be fatal to river and ocean animals.” To kick off the month, a screening of the environmental awareness documentary “Straws” by Linda Booker was provided at the Durham Arts Council on February 22nd – it was a packed house with help from Bull City Burger and Brewery, Pompieri Pizza, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Keep Durham Beautiful, The City of Durham Stormwater & GIS Services, Don’t Waste DurhamCompostNow, and other local environmentally conscious businesses!

Check out the trailer for “Straws” and learn more about this plastic pollution!

Several restaurants, bars, business, and other entities have taken the pledge to reduce or eliminate straw use in their establishments – some bars have even permanently moved to using only metal or other green straws! If you want to challenge yourself to have an impact on this type of plastic waste (and we promise, it’s won’t be too hard!), take the pledge at the link below:

Take the Pledge to SKIP THE STRAW here!

Don’t Litter, Man!

Don’t Litter, Man Full Video

Local Durhamite Pierce Freelon leads a litter art and beats workshop for youth at The Scrap Exchange to show that litter goes all the way to the ocean. Check out this fun video and show it to your kids, classroom, or even your coworkers!

City of Raleigh Capture It! Stormwater Art Contest Open Now!

Getting Students Interested in Water Quality Through Art and Film

The City of Raleigh Division of Stormwater Management is currently accepting entries for its ‘Capture It! Stormwater Arts Contest’. This is an opportunity for high school students to capture the importance of stormwater runoff through art and film in a way that will bring more awareness to the community about improving the water quality of Raleigh’s streams and lakes.

Students are encouraged to create one of the following to show residents how they can help keep streams clean.

  • A 60-second video;
  • A painting to be placed on a rain barrel; or,
  • A drawing to be used as a stencil for City of Raleigh storm drain covers.

Registration closes Friday, January 26, 2018. Winners in each category will receive a $300 prize, and will be featured at the 2018 Raleigh Environmental Awards. So get out there, make some art, and change your community for the better!

New CWEP Stormwater Video Heading to a Theater Near You this December!

We are very excited to release our new animated stormwater video that we’ve been working hard on over the last few months! This 30-second version of our full-length video will be shown in theaters across the region this holiday season, so tell your friends: If you’re headed to the movies between December 15th and 29th, grab a seat a little early to catch this ad rolling a few minutes before the previews start!

You can find our full-length videos in both English and Spanish, as well as individual pollutant spots you can use at home, at work, or in the classroom on our Resources page.